Recent reports regarding NSA access to phone call metadata and online communications and data have highlighted the continued importance of government transparency. The Computer & Communications Industry Association commends the specific requests of both senators and companies today that would help.
CCIA shares the grave concerns expressed about the allegations in these disclosures. The Association supports recently proposed legislation to declassify the legal decisions providing the basis for government surveillance, and joins industry in calling for transparency in the frequency which the government seeks data from U.S. business.
Without knowledge about how the law is being interpreted and used, proper debate about practices is impossible. A group of Senators have realized this fact, and introduced a bill today that would require the Department of Justice to declassify a large number of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions. CCIA supports this effort, led by Senators Merkley and Lee and joined by 6 other Senators.
CCIA has advocated against these sections of FISA for years and testified before the Senate in 2007 that we had concerns about accountability and transparency.
The following can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:
“To make appropriate decisions about security in a free society, the public should be informed about the legal principles governing surveillance in America. Transparency is essential; secret law is antithetical to democracy.”
“A top concern to consider is whether a secret executive branch program using secret courts with oversight by lawmakers briefed secretly can provide the adequate checks and balances intended by our founders. What is missing is accountability and public scrutiny as part of the checks and balances. That can only come with more transparency about what our nation is doing so we can discuss as a nation whether it’s worth it.
“We join industry in calling on the US government to enable companies to report aggregate national security data requests it receives from the government. Google issued such a request today in a letter to the attorney general and FBI director and Facebook issued a similar request. In addition to important transparency goals, there are serious First Amendment issues with such gag orders.
“As the industry that provides Internet services and communications tools, we disagree with the notion that the scope of government surveillance or how frequently these tools are used should be classified.
“In this effort to gather security data, the broader picture of the damage to the Internet was lost. Somehow the Internet as a global tool, a trade tool and a trusted communication tool for people around the world was not adequately weighed into the cost benefit analysis.
“There are broad costs to our nation’s diplomatic, economic and trade goals if the millions of people around the world using Internet services to communicate are worried about how their information and data is being used by the US government.”